UK consumer confidence has tumbled for a second consecutive quarter, and is now at its lowest for 18 months, as Brexit worries dominate, a key survey reveals today.

Accountancy firm Deloitte’s headline consumer confidence reading dropped further into negative territory in the survey covering the fourth quarter of last year, as optimism about job security and disposable income fell sharply. Deloitte meanwhile warned that UK households had entered 2019 in a “cautious mood” as it published its latest tracker, based on the responses of more than 3,000 UK consumers between January 4 and 7.

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Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said: “Recent data, in the form of record employment, higher earnings and falling inflation are great news for UK consumers. But consumers are more focused on Brexit worries at home and the clouds gathering over the global economy. Work may be easier to find than for decades and pay may be rising, but today’s decline in confidence shows that consumers’ spirits are heavily influenced by expectations.”

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Ben Perkins, head of consumer research at Deloitte, observed that, while quarterly spending on essentials and discretionary items had risen, the fall in overall confidence had resulted in more muted expenditure growth than expected during the “golden” quarter in the run-up to Christmas.”

He added: “Based on the tracker’s findings this quarter, it seems that consumers are anticipating bad times ahead, despite the backdrop of positive macroeconomic data. Notably, spending fell across certain essential categories, such as housing or transport, and on big-ticket items such as electrical goods and furniture.

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“Consumers have entered 2019 in a cautious mood. We expect spending to continue to slow, especially in the big-ticket discretionary categories.”